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Computational Studies of Anti-Cancer Photochemistry

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Martin Paterson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The use of light as a medical treatment has a long history and there are currently very sophisticated approaches such as photodynamic therapy (PDT) used in cancer treatment. However, detailed understanding limits design of new agents. Here computational chemistry can be invaluable in determining the nature of excited states involved, their relaxation pathways, and the interaction of photoproducts with biological apparatus that can be targeted for therapeutic use.

This project will continue our work in this area. We have previously looked at both organic[1] and inorganic[2] systems for photodynamic therapy. We have also investigated two-photon absorption as means of optimally initiating the photochemistry in the tissue transparency window.[3] In this project we will extend the work to investigate photochemical dynamics and spin-crossover effects that are vital in PDT. We will utilize a wide range of modern computational chemistry tools including response theory and multi-reference methods for non-adiabatic coupling between electronic states.

See our group website at

The Institute of Chemical Sciences (ICS) is an excellent environment for PhD research, with a thriving community of academics, post-doctoral and PhD researchers spread across three sections: Molecular Chemistry, Materials Chemistry, and Dynamics and Structure. ICS also has many links to the other research institutes within the overall umbrella of the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, providing a strong interdisciplinary theme to our research. Heriot-Watt University occupies an attractive campus site on the outskirts of Edinburgh, with excellent public transport links to the centre of one of the Europe’s most exciting cities.

Funding Notes

You should have, or expect to receive, a First class MChem degree in Chemistry, or equivalent in a relevant related subject. This project is funded by the Heriot-Watt University James Watt Scholarship programme, which provides tuition fees and a stipend (approx. £15,000) for 3 years of study. It is only open to EU and UK nationals.


[1] Chem. Commun., 2012 (48), 1544.
[2] Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2012 (51), 11263.
[3] Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2017 (56), 14898.

How good is research at Heriot-Watt University in Chemistry?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 30.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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